Fandom: Doctor Who
Rating: PG-13 (rating will increase)
Word Count: ~1800
Characters and pairings: River/Doctor, River/Octavian, Amy/Rory, various canon characters and originals
Series Warnings: timey-wimeyness, paradoxes, adult themes, young children
Spoilers: alternate universe after season six
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is the intellectual property of the BBC. No infringement on that right is meant by this fan work.
Summary: River can no more escape her future than the Doctor can escape his past. And everyone has spoilers.
The familiar bloom of warmth and static dissipated as River zapped herself into the TARDIS kitchen. Bread blackened quietly in the red-hot coils of the makeshift toaster, sending up wisps of smoke like a prayer votive.
The Doctor had his back to the cobbled contraption, drinking deeply from a carnival sized travel mug of tea. It was hot pink and the label had some kind of crude rocket emblem.
"Good morning River," he said after swallowing noisily. He gave a crooked little half grin under red eyes, turning to watch her dump the toast in the bin.
"Good morning to you too, my love." It didn't feel like morning to her, but morning was subjective in dark space. She observed, "You don't even like toast."
"It's the ritual that counts, I think. Could you make me eggs?"
River unstrapped the manipulator from her wrist, tossing it on the table. "I'll probably burn them." But she opened the refrigerator anyway. The eggs, butter, ketchup were all fine, but the milk had gone sour. She tsked and tapped the shelf and the TARDIS disposed of it. Usually there was someone to keep an eye on expiration dates; the Doctor couldn't bother with things like groceries. "You've lost a companion?" she said into the cupboard, looking for a frying pan. Her voice echoed back on her.
He didn't answer. This was answer enough.
"Was she pretty? Will I have met her?" She glanced over her shoulder. The question she wanted to ask, What happened?, wasn't one she could.
"Spoilers," he muttered into the plastic rim. His head sank to the table; she abandoned the butter lump sizzling in the pan to stroke his head.
"It's me who should be sorry, River." He immediately flinched, squeezed his eyes shut. "When is this for you? Have you even ha--" He stopped, the lump in his throat choking him. He wasn't crying, but he had been before, maybe for a while.
Her fingers never stopped, working their way deep into his hair. "I'm taking a 'small' detour after my third officially sanctioned trip out of prison. We were recovering a religious relic from a colony ravaged by a plague. No survivors. I wrote about it in the book you gave me, like you said. Kept a diary, in case you showed up. But you didn't, so I decided to come find you. I haven't seen you in ages."
On the stovetop, the butter fizzled out into a film and the pan began to smoulder.
"I've been preoccupied," he said, leaning up into her touch at last. His face seemed to ease. "I'm sorry."
"Stop saying that. If I had needed you, you would have been there. It was just a little plague." She grinned, leaving out the part about her narrow escape. "You probably just need something to eat and a rest. Still want those eggs?"
She cooked for him (rather badly) and then took his hand and walked him to their bedroom. The corridors twisted in front of them, giving the quickest path. River sent the TARDIS a quick word of thanks; the Doctor seemed dead on his feet. The toes of his boots dragged patterns in the gritty dust. They were worn down through the leather to the toughened plastic layer underneath, as though this was his usual walking pattern.
Once when she was young in this body, more Melody Pond than River Song, the TARDIS had tried to give her a tour of the bedrooms she'd archived. She'd seen the sterile default bedrooms of Steven and Nyssa and many others, cluttered with things they'd left behind. She'd taken a wide path around a room owned by a curly redheaded screamer named Mel; something about neverwere timelines made her queasy. She'd paid her respects at the locked door of Rose Tyler, and tried to remember the last time she'd seen Jack Harkness. (They'd had lunch on Luna; he called her ma'am.)
There was a bedroom dark and opulent, full of velvet drapery and fur rugs, which had belonged to the seventh incarnation of the Doctor, after he had set the desktop theme to Moody and Poetic. (The Master had liked it, the Doctor admitted only once, and did his best to avoid mentioning that name again. "You do so love your psychopaths," she whispered as she bit his ear.)
She could not find the rooms belonging to the ninth or tenth, for they had been ejected at all points in space and time, and so could not guess on the personalities of those men. Her Doctor's room looked like steam punk had thrown up orange on a box of tinker toys. It was loud, noisy, cluttered with broken bits of ship, and as far as River had seen, he had never once slept in it.
Instead, when he had to rest, he did so in hers. She had had a very thorough (though one sided) conversation with the TARDIS, and asked specifically for all the things she did not have in her cage. The loving ship happily overcompensated. River's bedroom was large, wallpapered of all things, with taupe roses as big as handprints weaving up a striped field of eggshell and gold. The bed was generous enough for four humans who liked their space, or maybe two teenaged Raxacoricofallapatorians and a Judoon. It was stacked high with pillows on rumpled grey sheets which never quite got made again after their first use.
River took him by the hand when his feet would carry him no further. The soft pneumonic hiss signalled the doors opening at her back. His hands were ragged and cracked from exposure to extreme temperature without gloves; she noticed now he was wearing an old ring that she had not yet given him. She'd never seen him wear a ring, not even in her college days, when he'd show up to bring her coffee on exam mornings with silver in his bangs. "Doctor, how late is this for you?" she asked seriously, quirking an eyebrow.
"River, I saw myself as an old man."
"You're always my old man," she chirped, snapping his brace and pulling him into the bedroom. He seemed to perk up a little at this comment, and came along willingly. The artificial sunlight from garden number three tumbled through the big terrace window and onto the parquet floor. For a moment, she saw things that weren't there -- crayon drawings on the scuffed wood, photographs on the wall, a soft toy with tentacles near the window sash... She blinked, and they were gone. She closed the curtains against the fragrant air, dousing the light.
The Doctor pulled off his boots while she sat on the bed, feeling queer and lightheaded. His big toe wiggled out of the hole in his sock, and she laughed at him when he knelt to remove hers. "I'm not tired."
"You're not going anywhere, River."
He pushed her down flat. Her curls splayed around her head. "No, I guess I'm not. But I can't stay forever."
"Yes you can." His forearm was heavy on her stomach. "It's a time machine, I can drop you off in ten years and you won't have been gone five minutes."
"Only if you let me drive."
"Hmph." He pushed his nose into her hair and was quiet for a while. She smelled like sand and the ocean and plasma discharge. They lay with their knees off the edge of the bed until he completely stilled. Behind her eyelids, she could see an indistinct face, a memory or thought radiating from the Doctor like a beacon.
"Doctor," she said into the quiet, "have you ever seen something in our future that you wanted to change?"
She heard him stir, lick his lips. The face was shielded from her. "There have been a few mistakes I could have done without. Madame Kovarian--"
"That's the past, Sweetie, I mean the future."
"I can't... darling... I wouldn't change a thing." The Doctor's voice cracked. I promised you, he thought-spoke. It was a forceful impression. He held her tighter, almost claustrophobically so.
Even what's hurting you now? She rolled out of his grasp, pushed up on her elbow. He was crying silently, and she wondered if she hadn't done it right.
He traced an ideogram on the palm of her hand. Fixed event. She shivered, and closed her fingers around his pointer. "A spoiler?"
"Doctor, the reason I came here today... I think I saw something I wasn't meant to see. Yet."
"What?" He wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
"I lied, before. I came from the bazaar on Barcelona. There was this little girl--"
"River," he said with realisation.
"--this little blonde girl--"
"Oh, my River Song."
"--and she ran up to me and she..." She stopped.
The Doctor looked her very square in the eye. His vowels were syrupy, the way they were when his emotions got the better of him. "I know. I remember, I was there. Darling, how far along are you?"
"Fifteen weeks, I think. It's been hard to keep track, I've been mostly running and vomiting. From the moment I guessed... I'm not showing very much."
"You will. Like you swallowed a planet, or a starwhale."
"Ah!" she cuffed his shoulder. "I will not."
"Will so. You're telling the wrong me, though. You have to tell him. He'll keep you safe; I've already lived it."
"I will, as soon as I find him. You're never a hard man to find, until I need to get your attention."
"Have you considered flagrant acts of vandalism?"
She hit him again, and then he embraced her, dragging her deep into the pillows. "I tried to find him, ended up crossing my own timeline. So I purposefully overshot. I needed you, proper you. One I didn't need to spoiler-proof myself against."
"I understand that feeling. But you know I've loved you even before I knew you."
"You lied to me."
She could hear his teeth click together in his jaw. "When?"
"Hybrids are sterile. Timelords are under Pythia's curse. We don't need protection, River."
"Ah." His face turned warm under her touch. "That was a good night."
"A very good night. The zig zag plotter jabbed me right in the spine."
She nodded, doodled the symbol for daughter on the tip of his nose. "Sweetie, where is she now?" The Doctor hesitated. "Doctor?"
"She's safe. Alive. Takes after us in infuriating ways. Really angry with me right now."
"What did you do?"
"Spoilers." The word whistled between his teeth, and his shoulders shook.
They held each other in the dark until one, or the both of them, fell asleep.
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